Does Your Infant have Reflux? Two Things to Try Before Meds

I still remember the first time, several years ago, I had a patient tell me that their infant had been put on Prilosec for heartburn.

Heartburn in an infant. Seriously? Maybe it was the chili dog and beer.

If we can believe that a newborn infant can have reflux, we would have to assume that Mother Nature screwed up somewhere. I’m not sure about you, but I refuse to believe that this could ever be the case.

So, if your infant is seemingly upset and spitting up, what else could be wrong if it’s not reflux? This is a question that never seems to be asked by the pediatrician. But it’s a critically important one; instead we just accept that your little son or daughter “makes too much acid” and leave it at that.

There are several reasons why an infant would show signs of reflux. But first, we need to clarify something. Just because your child is spitting up and seems to be negatively affected by eating does NOT mean that reflux is the diagnosis. Quite frankly, this is very far from true. In a study published in 2008 that can be read by clicking here, researchers looked at just how likely a group of infants who were given a prescription for acid blockers actually met the diagnostic criteria for reflux.

Only 8 out of 44 prescriptions. 18%. Talk about over prescribing.

For argument’s sake, let’s just say your child happens to fit into the small percentage that truly does have reflux. They need medication, right? Unfortunately, the research to date does not support the use of medications for treatment of GERD in infants (you can read more by clicking on a previous article here).

Despite all of this, infants are still put on medications for reflux at the recommendation of his or her pediatrician. How can this still happen despite the concerns and research noted above? This particular study may give us some insight into this question. Researchers looked at what influence the label of “GERD” made on the parents’ likelihood of medicating the infant. Here’s what they found:

  1. Parents who received a GERD diagnosis were interested in medicating their infant, even when they were told that the medications are likely ineffective.
  2. Parents not given this disease label were interested in medication only when medication effectiveness was not discussed (and hence likely assumed).

The mere diagnosis given (and remember that, in only 18% of cases is this likely to be accurate) had a serious impact on whether or not the parents were going to medicate, DESPITE being told it was not likely to be effective!

Just how brainwashed are we in society today? We get a disease label and our brains, based on seriously successful marketing by the drug companies, equate the disease with the use of the drug. It doesn’t matter that it’s not going to work.

Since medication is such a poor option, we need to get back to the question of where the problems may be stemming from. The are two very common situations:

  1. Food allergies (think dairy, corn, wheat….). If mom’s nursing, she needs to look at her diet. If the baby’s on formula, consider a hydrolyzed formula that will be easier on the baby’s sensitive immune and GI system.
  2. Dysbiosis. The wrong bacteria in the system. This means probiotics are critical. Some pediatricians may feel this is too early, but since the baby gets exposed at birth and it shows up in breastmilk, I think Mother Nature would strongly disagree.

So before your child is put on ridiculous medications for a condition that likely doesn’t exist, consider the above 2 tips to see if it helps. I think you’ll be surprised.

If your child had digestive issues as an infant, what natural approaches did you find that helped the most?

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.